AS one of Ireland’s most illustrious soccer players, Niall Quinn has been there, done that and worn the t-shirt, or perhaps even more famously according to the terrace chant, worn the disco pants, but last Tuesday evening was the same as any other in this season’s Kildare Ladies Division 1.
He was on the sideline treating his Eadestown team’s game against Sarsfields every bit as seriously as any of his almost 500 professional appearances for Arsenal, Manchester City and Sunderland, and 92 games for Ireland.
Clearly, it’s working too. Eadestown beat Sarsfields 3-13 to 2-9 that night and although they suffered a heavy defeat this week against Confey, they are still well placed in the league table.
It’s been an experience that Quinn has thoroughly enjoyed so far.
“It’s been brilliant. I haven’t had my shorts and boots on for quite a while. When I came up the first few times I just couldn’t believe the enthusiasm and the desire of the girls, and the collective team spirit. It’s just phenomenal. When they need guidance, it’s up to me, Ger Kavanagh and Colin Dempsey, who does the fitness with us. We will be the ones found wanting if this thing doesn’t kick on because the girls’ attitude is just unbelievable and we have to show the same desire as a management team and the whole thing depends on us not dropping the standards off either,” he said.
Looking at that win over Sarsfields, Eadestown made a slow start and were 0-4 to 0-0 behind after 12 minutes but they really found their stride later in the half and by the break were 3-6 to 0-6 ahead. Eadestown still have veterans of their 2006 All –Ireland junior winning such as Aoife Herbert, Denise Tierney and Cliona Dowling. They also have intercounty stars Grace Clifford, back after missing most of last year through injury, and Rose Mernagh, and county minor Eve Murphy.
“It’s great to see Grace back, she is getting fitter all the time and she is a very inspirational player for us. She is a very skilful player and normally gets the scores that really matter and again she did that tonight. Everybody else is feeding off that and wants to be part of it as well.
“We have the two Tierney twins here, Denise and Siobhan. If there was a transfer market between Gaelic football clubs, no money would buy them, they are not for sale. I’ve a few other gems in there as well. It’s the team ethos that is great here though, we are all at it because we love it,” said Quinn, whose daughter Aisling is also part of the forward line.
Quinn has enlisted Colin Dempsey, of the local Performance and Fitness Academy gym, to look after the fitness side of things but admits that his training methods are a little different to what the girls may have been used to.
“It’s probably more soccer training than Gaelic training but fair play to them, they haven’t got rid of me yet. They are listening and applying it my way, which is great, even if it is alien to some of them compared to what they would have done over the years. The work rate that they are putting in and the support are is showing, I’m getting a great kick out of it.
“Colin is great on the fitness side of things, he brings a wealth of knowledge to it. If I had had Colin in my career time I would have played another three or four years, I’m certain of it. He’s got different fitness patterns for the girls. He came and tested the girls and saw their individual needs and the girls have bought into it. We have Ger there as well. He’s been a stalwart of this club for over half a century. We have the backbone of the club in there with Ger, we have Colin and his great approach to fitness in there, and we have my soccer training. Between all that, it’s a funny sort of combination but it’s going well at the moment,” said Quinn, who won a reserve league and Championship with Eadestown in 2004.
Taking the role on was a big commitment for Quinn given that he is regularly out of the country at the weekend due to his punditry work on the English Premier League with Sky Sports but that hasn’t held him back too much.
“The games work out fine because the games are on Tuesdays and we train on Thursdays and I’m always around on those days. Sometimes I get back on Saturday night so then I can make our Sunday morning session as well. Ger and Colin keep the girls going when I’m not around and the girls are really responding.
“We have this spirit among the team so if you can’t make training you have to be seen to do something. If they can’t make it, they’ll send in photos of themselves in the gym and that kind of thing. Everybody is really buying into it. I don’t know how far we can go but that that’s not really the point, the point is that the girls are improving all the time,” said Quinn.
Training in Patsy’s Field in Eadestown on a cold and wet February night is a world away from the glitz and glamour of the Premier League and World Cup but Quinn is loving his involvement.
“I haven’t done anything like this for a long time, turning up for a couple of nights a week for training and matches but it’s a pleasure to be around such a dedicate group of girls and I’m delighted with the way that it is going.
“I’m probably getting more craic out of it than any of them but long may it continue,” said Quinn.